HUNTINGTON CENTER
Edinger Avenue and Beach Boulevard
Huntington Beach, California

Orange County, California's first fully-enclosed shopping center was constructed on 58 acres, located 33 miles southeast of center city Los Angeles. Originally known as HUNTINGTON CENTER, the complex was adjacent to a newly-opened stretch of the San Diego Freeway / Interstate 405.

Consisting of a single level of retail, HUNTINGTON CENTER was designed by Los Angeles-based Mazzetti, Leach, Cleveland & Associates and developed by a joint venture of the Huntington Beach Company and Santa Barbara-based Gordon L. McDonald.  

The first operational store, a 2-level (156,000 square foot) Los Angeles-based The Broadway, was dedicated November 15, 1965. A 2-level (169,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward held its grand opening October 26, 1966.

An official mall grand opening took place November 17, 1966, with music provided by the Huntington Beach High School Oiler Band. The center's third anchor, a 2-level (206,000 square foot) J.C. Penney, was dedicated at this time. This store faced a main court area with a statue of an archer, imported from Budapest, at its center.

HUNTINGTON CENTER spanned 842,900 leasable square feet. Charter tenants included Gudes-Barnett Shoes, Mode O' Day Frock Shop, Bond Clothes, Winstead Camera, Gladys Fowler ladies' wear and Harris & Frank men's wear. A Food Fair supermarket was housed in a 108,800 square foot Convenience Center, on the eastern periphery of the mall.

Construction commenced on a 9 million dollar expansion in March 1986. Designed by the Millard Archuleta firm of Los Angeles, the addition included a 2-level (82,000 square foot), Hayward, California-based Mervyn's, a beach motif Food Court and stores and services such as Intrigue Jewelers, Cinnamon Roll Fair, Deck The Walls, Lerner Woman and Spencer Gifts.

The 2-level -Teflon tent-roofed- wing was officially dedicated November 22, 1986. The GLA of the shopping center, which was now officially promoted as HUNTINGTON BEACH MALL, was increased to 950,000 leasable square feet.

Unfortunately, by the mid-1990s, the shopping hub was going under. J.C. Penney moved out in November 1993, with Burlington Coat Factory assuming its store space in 1995. The Broadway folded in August 1996.

The mall was left virtually vacant, as tenants and customers had moved to newer and more trendy retail venues, such as SOUTH COAST PLAZA (1967) {6.3 miles southeast, in Costa Mesa} and WESTMINSTER MALL (1974) {1.3 miles northwest, in Westminster}.

Santa Monica's Macerich Company bought HUNTINGTON BEACH MALL in December 1996 and announced a major renovation, whereby the vacant The Broadway would be razed and replaced by a 20-screen Edwards Cinema. This project never saw fruition. Meanwhile, the mall continued to deteriorate.

By the turn of the century, a new owner, Irvine-based Ezralow Retail Property, had come on board, with a more extensive renovation plan being drawn up. The bulk of the shopping hub would be knocked down, leaving Mervyn's, Montgomery Ward and the eastern parking area Convenience Center standing.

CROSSINGS AT HUNTINGTON, an "Italian Village" of upscale shoppes, dining options and entertainment venues, would be built. Burlington Coat Factory, deemed too middle market for the upscale shopping-center-to-be, was not to be included in the redevelopment.

A series of lawsuits ensued, with the retailer eventually prevailing. Any new shopping complex at the HUNTINGTON CENTER site would include Burlington Coat Factory. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Montgomery Ward. Its store went dark in March 2001.

By 2003, a joint venture of Ezralow, the Huntington Beach Redevelopment Agency and Los Angeles-based J.H. Snyder Company had been formed to oversee the redevelopment of HUNTINGTON BEACH MALL. A wrecking ball renovation got underway in late 2003. Most of the complex was razed, with the four anchor department stores, and the Convenience Center, left standing.

Ground was broken in April 2004 for a new, 170 million dollar shopping complex, which would be entirely open-air. In October 2005, San Jose-based DJM Capital Partners acquired the property, which was still in the throes of heavy construction.

Christened BELLA TERRA (Italiano for "Beautiful Earth"), the new shopping facility would include the existing Mervyn's and Burlington Coat Factory stores. The old The Broadway had been renovated and retenanted by Kohl's, who had opened for business March 7, 2003.

Other holdovers from the enclosed mall were a (39,100 square foot) Barnes & Noble and (31,500 square foot) Circuit City, in the Convenience Center, and smaller outparcel structures, such as Bank of America and Romano's Macaroni Grill.

Some of the newly-built BELLA TERRA stores were a (40,500 square foot) Bed, Bath & Beyond, (22,600 square foot) REI and (18,300 square foot) Cost Plus World Market. These welcomed their first shoppers in the spring of 2005. The Century Theatres Huntington Beach 20 megaplex showed its first features on November 18.

The fully-realized BELLA TERRA encompassed 777,000 leasable square feet and contained seventy stores and services. An official grand opening was held on September 8, 2006. The revitalized Surf City center encountered two hurdles in November 2008; the shutterings of Mervyn's and Circuit City.

Whole Foods Market remodeled the shuttered Circuit City, with the new gourmet grocer beginning business October 13, 2010. The vacant Mervyn's was torn down in mid-2011. Costco constructed a 1-level (154,000 square foot) store, which held its grand opening May 2, 2012.

Montgomery Ward, which had been sitting vacant for over 9 years, was finally demolished in December 2010. THE VILLAGE AT BELLA TERRA, a residential and retail complex, was built on the old Ward's store's 15 acres. Eventually encompassing four hundred and sixty-eight apartments, 30,000 square feet of retail and a 5-level parking structure, its first residential units were completed in April 2013.

Sources:

The Los Angeles Times
LottaLiving website / Favorite Building Forum / Contributors: "Egads", "Spud Girl", and "Boxoutbm"
Belle Of The Malls: Huntington Beach Mall Reborn As Tuscan-inspired Lifestyle Center"/ Melissa Adams / OC Metro Magazine / "Retail" / February 16, 2006
Long Beach Press-Telegram
The Huntington Beach Independent / "Huntington Center's Opening" / Jerry Person
http://www.ci.huntington-beach.ca.us
City-Data.com / Los Angeles City Forum / Contributors: "Tess", "Dennismpat" and "Gary F." City-djmcapital.com (DJM Capital Partners website)
"The Broadway" article on Wikipedia
"Mervyn's" article on Wikipedia
www.groceteria.com / Message Board / History: Non-Grocery Retail / Contributor: "Jeff"